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  • Writer's pictureVoces Unidas de las Montañas

Voces Unidas supports Bennet bill protecting ag workers during emergency situations

Farm workers are critical to the economy of Colorado, but they have few protections. Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and other lawmakers today introduced legislation that aims to provide emergency assistance to America’s farm workers in the face of disaster. 


Sen. Bennet joined Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) alongside U.S. Representatives Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) on Friday to introduce the Disaster Relief for Farm Workers Act. This bicameral legislation would provide resources to agricultural workers during emergency instances including adverse weather events, an unexpected health crisis such as a pandemic, or other situations that may cause a loss of income due to work shortages. 


“Agriculture is the backbone of Colorado's economy and central to our Western way of life, but as climate-fueled disasters become increasingly common, our state’s farm workers are paying the price,” Sen. Bennet said. “The people that grow America's fruits, vegetables, and other crops deserve assistance – especially after emergencies like drought, wildfires, or other natural disasters. This legislation recognizes their crucial role in our economy.”


Sen. Bennet’s new bill seeks to create vital safety nets to support essential workers who feed Coloradans and Americans. The Senator has an established track record of championing pro-agriculture worker legislation, including an attempt to grant legal status to millions of undocumented agricultural workers and their families, and Voces Unidas thanks him for his leadership on these important issues. 


“We thank Senator Bennet for supporting agriculture workers. Providing emergency assistance to the essential workers responsible for feeding America helps create a more stable workforce in our food supply,” Voces Unidas President and CEO Alex Sánchez said.


An estimated 2.4 million farm workers wake up before sunrise every day to work on our nation’s family farms and ranches, tend to animals, harvest fruits and vegetables, and feed families across the country. Yet climate-related threats including rising temperatures and increasingly severe natural disasters particularly affect farm workers. However, existing federal disaster relief programs insufficiently compensate farm workers when they lose wages as a result of conditions out of their control.


The Disaster Relief for Farm Workers Act follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Equity Commission’s recommendations to provide disaster relief funding for farm workers. Specifically, the bill makes grants available to eligible organizations to provide emergency relief to farm workers affected by a disaster and ensures USDA develops and executes a promotional plan prior to and throughout the distribution of the relief grants to increase awareness of the assistance available.


“Farm workers have long been excluded from federal disaster relief programs, even as they have been disproportionately impacted by extreme weather such as fires, flooding, and other natural disasters,” said Teresa Romero, president of United Farm Workers (UFW). “The same way the federal government provides support to farm owners who lose crops, the federal government should provide support to farm workers who lose work. The Disaster Relief for Farm Workers Act will ensure that farm workers and their families can put food on the table when they are unable to work due to conditions beyond their control.”


The bill is also supported by Earthjustice, National Farm Worker Ministry, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Columbia Legal Services, United Migrant Opportunity Services, and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).


Text of the entire bill is available HERE.




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